"My lord." A man turned his eyes upwards from his hands to gaze unafraid upon the face of a man nearly fifty years his junior.
"You do not think my choices with the vicars have been illogical?"
He shook his head, his hair the hue of the brightest snow. Others would think him a soft and gentle man, aged and wise, but his eyebrows, dark as jet and more prominent than any other feature on his worn face, would set their minds ill at ease. Demuzi did not think himself a threatening man, nor to possess a threatening presence, but people were cautious around him, leery of his gaze and would sooner turn away from him than seek his wisdom. Though his callers were few, his wisdom was well-known and impregnable. Only those that sought knowledge unknown would appear to him, timorous and meek. "Your objections to appear publicly are not in vain, though our vicars would disagree. The people love you all the more for it."
Demuzi's inquirer raised his smooth chin, his green eyes expressionless, never once looking at Demuzi. "I dislike the chidings of them; it grates upon my ears and scorches my mind. It is most uncomfortable."
"And they are always cast out, my lord."
The man grinned slightly, though his eyes still stared vacantly in front of him. One cannot rid of you so easily, Demuzi, once they come to know you."
They sat in his abode's atrium for the sole purpose of being in solace and quietude. Only the chief servant could call upon him here, and his conversations and wanderings would remain within the atrium, private and secluded. The vicars hated it when he retreated into this place, but once inside here, their impetuous opinions and maddening voices could not penetrate. They faded from existence. And they did not know that he invited visitors to this atrium.
"As you well know, there is one among my Sentinels who has dared to try me."
"Fool that he is," Demuzi added solemnly.
The man sneered in approval. "He does not know it yet, but I am well aware of who he is."
"So soon, my lord? Your swiftness is impressive." They were natural words, and indeed, the young emperor did surprise him often with his cleverness and accurate intuition.
"I and Aethos are the only ones to know of his identity, so I must ask of you a favor. I hope you are not preoccupied tonight."
"For you, my lord, I am at your service." He truly was not busy this night, but that was predictable. He was mildly curious of the treacherous Sentinel in the Emperor's service, and perhaps the emperor's request would provide a small clue as to who it could be. Only mildly curious, though. Of course only Aethos knew, Aethos, the Sentinel closest to the emperor, closer to him than Demuzi could ever be. But Demuzi didn't mind, perhaps it was their nearness in age that created that brotherly bond. Demuzi came from a different generation, the generation of the Emperor's father, the late Emperor Alaric, and he couldn't expect to see things from those youthful eyes. Demuzi wasn't planning on being around much longer, and in Aethos, he knew the emperor would be in good hands. Where the current Emperor was lacking, Aethos more than made up for it.
"Good. I need a man I can trust to retrieve a message from a man who comes from Gravua," he started.
The Gravua Kingdom. The Emperor had had his eye on that southern kingdom for a long time now, since his first year of reign. Was the time nearing that Lord Emperor Varsala would begin to gather his dreaded forces to crush and subjugate the Gravua Kingdom once and for all?
"I would send one of my men, but for the moment, I must keep their presumption that they are all under my suspicion."
"Name the time and place and I will return to you within the hour."
"You are a man to be trusted, Demuzi," Varsala said softly, withdrawing a folded paper from his pocket and holding it out to the old man. "My seal to present to the messenger. He will be at the Ponacce Monastery just west of here soon after sunset. I am sure you are familiar with the place."
A monastery to conduct secret business? Demuzi chuckled and the glint of a green eye flashed from his peripheral vision.
"I offered no humor, what are your thoughts?"
Demuzi chuckled again. "Your subtlety is unceasing, my lord."
Varsala didn't smile, but shifted his contemplation elsewhere. "With haste, Demuzi. My patience has been running thin lately."
"Of course." But he remained seated, for Varsala had yet to wave his long fingers in the air, condescendingly dismissing him like he did every time they met.
It wasn’t long before Varsala began again, his voice belligerent. "I am sick of this empire’s affairs. Come, is there news? Or has the world gone to sleep, drunken on Allencian spirits and fattened with Rhodian sows?"
Demuzi bowed again. "Peace is short-lived, you are aware of. My eyes have looked to the east, and a king draws close to another's border -- too close. I have seen enough of the tread of boots to know that these steps have a purpose."
"Whose border?" The young man sat forward, his first movement in the past hour. He pushed a black strand of hair from his eyes, cold and inquiring eyes seeming to stare into Demuzi's very soul.
"The Dalathould Empire’s border. I cannot hear the intent of the offending army, for there are thousands of leagues of sea between us, but I daresay the Sarrphin Kingdom will wage war against the city of Morra. They have already usurped Ursmades, and no one dares step past the peak of those mountains and descend into the Fanumni's land. The only place King Phaethon could go is to Morra."
"Dalathould," the man tapped his lips with a slender finger, thought for a moment, then turned to the table in front of him. He ruffled through some papers until he uncovered a map, of which he traced his fingers upon it. "You will tell me when a move is made? What makes you so sure?"
Demuzi shook his head and bowed, keeping his eyes downcast.
"Sibyl, you know things no man can ever know. What assures you that this Sarrphin king will attempt to attack an empire thrice his size in military alone?"
"A human flaw," Demuzi raised his head slightly, but kept his eyes cast low. "And the sending of many souls to the other planes."
"Can you see them there?" The man stared hard, eyes glittering more vivid than the greenery surrounding him.
"No, my lord, it is impossible for me to see them. But I am aware of their passing. Large numbers. The Sarrphin king is murdering his own people by the thousands. I could not know the reason for his genocide."
"His own people," the man scoffed, looking away and up to the high glass ceiling. "They were not his people, those deserts beyond Morra's mountains belong to none but nomads and the outcasts. Phaethon wants something, and the desert was only his practicing ground. What could it be," he resumed to lean on his knees with a hand over his mouth, angled brow wrinkled in thought. "What could it be... Cannot your gods enlighten you of Phaethon's will?"
"Certainly not!" Demuzi stood up straight. "I am mere mortal, and I dare not even expect special regard once I stand across from them one day."
"I am sure your... friendship ...with them is hardly that strict?" He looked at the old man sourly.
"It is a wonder that I have not been struck down already, my lord," Demuzi bowed again. But his fear was not for the man before him, but for the men and women he had never seen. The men and women that gave him the power to see beyond the narrow scope of his dilated pupils. Those that he feared more than death himself.